Binders or Digitize?
Nothing can be more frustrating, especially when you first out working on your family's genealogy, than trying to second guess yourself. "Am I doing this right?" Used to always be my mantra. Always afraid that I would lose something. Or that I would file it wrong, and never be able to get it back!
Well, about everything that could possibly go wrong with your genealogy journey probably happened to me, at one time or another.
At one point, I was printing out vast reams of paper, trying to get every article, document or photograph I could find regarding my family genealogy. Then I became paranoid, as I was simply putting everything into bankers file boxes (you know the kind that are knocked down and you fold and crease them into a somewhat file box shape?)
I thought, well, I'll start going through those papers (when I had about four or five boxes full of loose papers and copies) and put them in binders. So, I ordered in a bunch of 5-inch binders. And I simply started out punching holes in the pages. I didn't get too far, (thank goodness), that I thought maybe I should digitize these papers before I put them into the binders. So, back to the scanner, and I began scanning.
Before I knew, I learned about printing onto acid-free archival quality printing paper, using quality inks. Most of my printing had been done on plain, ordinary printing paper. So, back to the office supply store. As I scanned and saved papers to my computer, I also reprinted them, and realized, I should probably put those pages into archival page sleeves instead of punching holes in them.
So, back I went to the office supply store (I was getting to know these guys by name!). I wish I could say that I now had everything under control. But soon, I realized that I had all of the digital copies listed as Scan 001, Scan 002, etc. So I went back into each scan and began to name them after the person they were scanned for. Such as my gr-gr-grandfather. Suddenly I had WmBean-1, WmBean-2, etc. These files meant that now I would have to open each scan up to see what the file was for regarding William Bean. Time consuming. Very, very, time consuming, I was beginning to realize.
I decided on sub-folders. This is what worked for me. So, now I have folders on my computer that look like this:
I can go almost instantly to any photo or document I want, regarding just about anyone in my genealogy.
I start with a folder that lists the last name of the family I am researching. Let's use my Bean/e ancestry as an example.
There is a file folder marked "Bean/e". Inside you will find out patriarch folder, titled "William M. Bean" (now that "e" on the end is quite important, as it let's me know I am looking under Senior's name, and not his grandson's, which had the "e"). So, I am looking William Bean folder. If I click on it, inside you will find all of the research I have done for him. But there are other file folders inside of William's. There are 13 folders, each containing the research I have done on each of his 13 children. Likewise, inside of each of their folders you will find the same thing.
It might not work for everyone, but it's how I stay organized with my digital files.
Let's look at the path you would have to follow to find information on me, and this should give you an idea of my organization. To locate a file on me, I would follow this path:
"Bean/e > William M Bean > William M Bean Jr > John M Bean Sr > Walter M Beane > Cynthia A Beane"
Now, my family tree consists of over 16,000 individuals. I can hear you thinking, 'How does she remember where to begin looking for everyone at?' Simple really, I don't remember. I do a search. And the file on that person will come up. And I proceed from there.
As for the paper files, I use a similar system. But that will be for another day.
And back to original question: Binders or Digitize? I do both. I have huge binders full of every record I have, having printed everything out, as well as saved them digitally.
The digitization means that I can transfer files to others safely and quickly, without ever touching my hard copies. It means, I can take my laptop with me when I go to the library, or courthouse and refer back to the information I have if needed, while searching for new materials.
It also means, that God forbid, my hard drive crashes (I had a laptop hard drive that literally MELTED once!) I could put the files back together. But for heaven's sakes don't rely on your laptop for keeping those digital copies safe!
Today I save on my laptop. And twice a month, on the 15th, and first day of each new month, I backup my files (genealogy program, as well as notes in it and photographs in it, and photographs or documents not in it). I back up to an external hard drive. And to the Cloud. Then I back up the genealogy tree, just with notes, to a thumb drive. Yes, I may go a bit overboard on making sure my files are safe. But I nearly lost everything when my computer crashed and melted. Since then, I do my very best to keep everything protected. And we will go over that another day as well.
I hope this has helped you! If you find this type of information helpful, please let us know!